Heart Rhythm Disorders (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- How does the heart work?
- Premature atrial contractions (PACs) and premature ventricular contractions (PVCs)
- Sinus tachycardia
- Sinus bradycardia
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Ventricular fibrillation
- Ventricular flutter
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)
- Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome
- Atrial fibrillation
- Atrial Flutter
- Heart blocks
- When should I seek medical care?
- How are heart rhythm disorders diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for heart rhythm disorders?
- Can heart rhythm disorders be prevented?
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
Ventricular Fibrillation (V Fib)
Ventricular Fibrillation is technically not a rapid heart rhythm because the heart has ceased to beat. In ventricular fibrillation, the ventricles do not have a coordinated electrical pattern and the ventricles, instead of beating, just jiggle. Since the heart doesn't beat, blood is not circulated to the body and bodily function stops. This rhythm is often associated with a heart attack where the ventricular muscle doesn't get enough blood supply (myocardial ischemia), becomes irritated, and causes irritation of the electrical system. Without a coordinated impulse to signal the ventricle to beat, it just jiggles. The only treatment for this is defibrillation with an electrical shock. Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in public places have helped decrease the mortality from sudden cardiac death, but prevention remains the mainstay to survive this event. Some people, such as those with a very weak heart muscle or who have a prior history of ventricular fibrillation will require an implantable defibrillator to prevent future episodes of sudden death and treat this rhythm. Aside from myocardial ischemia, other causes of ventricular fibrillation may include severe weakness of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), electrolyte disturbances, drug overdose, and poisoning.
Ventricular Flutter is another rapid heart rate that originates in the ventricle. The causes are the same as ventricular fibrillation, but because of the electrical conduction pattern in the heart pathways, an organized signal is provided to the ventricles, allowing them to beat. This remains an emergency, because without treatment, this rhythm will degenerate to ventricular fibrillation.
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